I have a good pile of old computer equipment too, some of which is probably only valuable to people who really really want them at this point. IDE hard drives? Sure, I have those. AGP graphics cards? Maybe one or two left lying around in case an old system fails. The trouble here though is that because no one builds new systems with these parts anymore, your best efforts should be targeted towards finding the people who need them to repair the systems they use (and may have to keep for some reason) or just love old technology. Here are some ways to find the right markets for your old gear.
Join a User Group or Computer Club and Sell Your Old Parts There
Local user groups and computer clubs used to be the primary way for like-minded tweakers and system builders to gather, discuss, trade parts, and share knowledge. Many of those clubs are long gone, but some still exist online, and still retain their local roots. Head over to Craigslist or Facebook and search for local computer clubs or user groups in your area. While you’re searching, you may be able to find a local buy/sell/trade group that’s worth looking into as well. Photo by Tobias Wolter.
Ideally, once you find a user group of computer club, you may be able to offer up your old components directly to an audience that may be able to make use of them, who have old systems to repair or upgrade, or who may just want the components in their own parts collection. Similarly, many computer clubs still have shows and sales where you can take out a table if you’re a member (sometimes at a small fee) and sell whatever you have available. Those shows have become much less popular in recent years, but if you have a lot of old computer parts you need to offload, it’s an option worth looking into.
Sell to an Electronics Recycler or Reprocessor
Another solid option is to find a computer recycler or component reprocessing company that’s willing to buy your old gear. How much you’ll actually get back varies depending on the type of electronics you’re trying to offload, but most of these recyclers and reprocessing companies are really interested in the valuable or rare-earth metals in your PC components. For that reason, you should take care to make sure the company you choose is not only willing to give you a decent price for your gear, but promises to do the recycling in-house and in an environmentally-friendly manner, without just contributing to the global e-waste problem or outsourcing to a company that does. Do your homework here: open the yellow pages and look around, or hit Google for local companies near you—not just big websites that promise to pay you more and send you boxes to ship your gear in.
Check With Your Local Hackerspace
Hackerspaces are another place where people often need or make use of old electronics. We’ve shown you how to find and get involved with nearby hackerspaces, but even if you’re not a member the space may be interested in your old electronics. In some cases, they’re betting that their members are less interested in the actual devices you may have and more in their components, but in other cases your old equipment may be useful and compatible with machinery, diagnostic equipment, or older gear that hackerspaces may have on-hand. Photo by Mitch Altman.
Many spaces have old equipment for which there are no upgrades available, or machinery that requires old software—running on old hardware—in order to function, so older equipment is worth keeping around. Call up your local hackerspace and see if they’re willing to buy (or even take donations, which we’ll get to later.)
Check with Local Schools, Libraries, or even Local Governments
Schools, libraries, and local governments are all usually willing to accept donations, but not necessarily sales. You may have to jump through some legal or registration hoops in order to sell old equipment to a school or library, even if you have a garage full of stuff, so be ready for that if that’s the avenue you want to take. Many schools, government offices, and other organizations have old equipment or are using old software they can’t afford to replace, but may be willing to shell out a few bucks for old PCs they can keep for parts to repair critical systems.
That said, this probably isn’t your best option. Like we mentioned, many schools and libraries have “approved vendor” lists that restrict where they can spend money, and if your old parts are that old, even schools and libraries won’t want them because they’re older than anything their students or patrons may benefit from using. Donations are a better option here, because you’ll get a tidy tax deduction for the market value of the item you’re donating, which can add up to real money at tax time.
Craigslist/eBay or Donate It: Not What You Wanted, but Good Options Nonetheless
They’re not the options that you probably wanted to hear from the get-go, but eBay and Craigslist both have the most eyeballs of any of these options, even if most of those eyes aren’t looking for your gear specifically. Still, many people looking for old computer parts head to eBay first, so it’s a good bet to try and sell your item there. Like we mentioned in our complete guide to selling your old crap, an eye-catching photo, a well crafted listing, and some savvy timing can net you big bucks.
If you have enough old components to build an actual PC, you can make much more money selling it as a completed system on Craigslist than you would parting it out on eBay. If you can, consider putting your old components together into a full computer and selling it that way. Not everyone wants or needs high end components for their family PC or even for gaming, and you can make a tidy sum on a pre-built system with older components if it’s ready to use.
Finally, there’s always the option of donating your old gear to a school, library, or charity. You won’t make any money this way, but you will get a tax deduction for your donation, and depending on how much you have to get rid of, it’s easier and less hassle than trying to find somewhere to pay you a few bucks for your old IDE drives, SCSI adapters, or parallel port peripherals.
We hope that’s given you a couple of options to look into, Cleaning Out the Closet! With luck you’ll be able to score a few bucks for your old gear, and if not, you may be happier you took the donation option when it comes time to do your taxes. Write us back and let us know how it all turned out!